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Last week Solomon said if you’re happy and you know it, then your life should surely show it. As Christians, we are cheerful not because of the ever changing circumstances of life, we’re cheerful because we know Jesus is there regardless of those circumstances. Smile because of Jesus. This morning, Solomon gives us some comparisons that really are no comparison.
Pro. 15:16-19 says, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it. Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred. A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute. The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.”
Let’s get to our first comparison. We’ve talked about people being scared of things that are not real. Halloween was just a couple of weeks ago and it’s a time where people try and scare one another. People are scared of vampires, or werewolves, or cemeteries. That’s not the kind of fear Solomon is talking about. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” That fear of the Lord is the same reverential respect we’ve talked about before. He is talking about material possessions here. It’s better to have reverence for who God is and what He has done in the world and in your life and have little materially than it is to have a lot of stuff and no God. These things are not always mutually exclusive. Just because you have little does not mean you have little faith. Just because you have lots does not mean your favor is great with God. We must break free from the worldly mindset and importance of wealth. Of course we need money to purchase things and we need money to sow into the Kingdom of God. I assure you that God knows and understands how it works. Solomon is saying there really are more important things than money. Peter and John were walking along heading to the temple when a beggar, lame from birth, was in the way. The lame guy sees Peter and John and begins asking for money. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6) We need money to buy things, but would you rather have money or be able to walk? The point is that with great wealth comes great responsibility.
“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” He’s comparing the two. Turmoil means a state of great confusion or uncertainty. Later in Proverbs Agur says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” (Pro. 30:8) He wants enough and the reasons are very good. If there’s too much Agur reasons that he might forget the Lord. If there’s too little, he might steal and profane the name of the Lord. It’s better to have a little and know who God is than to have great treasure with all the confusion and uncertainly that comes along with it.
Here’s another comparison. I admit this one didn’t sit too well with me until I read it carefully “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, that a fattened ox served with hatred.” This is not a proof text to justify a vegetarian lifestyle. In the culture of the day, most meals were of a leafy nature. Meals that offered meat were mostly reserved for the very wealthy or for celebrations. As we approach Thanksgiving, I think this verse is more applicable. How many people are dreading making the trip to the in-laws or the parents or other family members because of the strife that exists there? The key words there are love and hatred. The idea behind this verse is that it’s much more pleasant to sit around eating veggies when love abounds than it is to eat wonderful, tasty, juicy meat that is served with hatred. No matter how good the actual food is, when there is animosity, strife, anger, hatred, or any other negative emotions flying around, most people would prefer not to be around.
You’ve seen this one first hand. “A hot tempered man sirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” This goes hand in hand with 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I want to remind you that if you are a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, you have received the gift of self control. Gal. 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Let’s quit making excuses for why we cannot demonstrate that which was given to us by the same Spirit that was present when God created the heavens and the earth. “A hot tempered man stirs up strife.” If you are a natural hot head, then evaluate your walk with Christ. If you are unable to maintain control when things go a bit south, ask yourself why. Do you enjoy the feeling of conviction that comes when the Spirit rebukes you? Are you unwilling to listen to someone because you’re too busy yelling? When disagreements come, do you immediately ramp up? The remedy for that hot temper is someone that is, “slow to anger.” It’s not that this guy cannot get angry, but he understands that calmness is like water on a fire. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9) I cannot understand how mature believers can have knock down drag out fights with other people. I don’t understand how people can be done with one another. One thing is certain, that’s not God’s desire.
Here’s a vivid word picture. The final principle we’ll look at today says, “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the righteous is a highway.” Picture this in your mind. Have you ever tried to fight your way through a thorn bush? A briar patch? Have you ever walked through a patch of beggar’s lice? Cockle burs? Have you ever walked to the beach barefooted and stepped on a sand spur? That’s the picture Solomon is painting. It’s painful, it’s hard, it’s slow going. That’s the path the lazy person is on. The contrast is the path of the righteous. It’s like a freshly paved highway. It’s smooth and flat. It’s clearly marked with rest stops along the way. That doesn’t mean there won’t be breakdowns, or exits you have to take, but they are approved by God. You can only get on and off at the opportunities God provides. In reality, the road of faith is not all smooth and there can be detours, but the idea Solomon is presenting is that the way of righteousness is always better because it’s God’s path.
Solomon’s favorite writing technique is to compare the righteous to the wicked. He uses numerous terms and a wide variety of scenarios, but he always gives us the conclusion that it’s better to walk with God than without God. It’s best to eat lean with love than it is to eat high on the hog with hatred. It’s best to be slow to anger so people can see God in us. Even when there are difficulties, it’s best to stay on the path that God has prepared. Clear comparisons. Which path will you take; the righteous or the wicked?